Literature in Guaraní

The Paraguayan people, product of Spanish-Guaraní miscegenation and heir of two languages, has created, alongside literature written in Spanish, another genre of literature no less important that is expressed in Guaraní.  The Guaraní literature of Paraguay is usually divided into three large chapters:  indigenous literature, folk literature and refined literature.

Indigenous literature, also called traditional oral based upon the fact that the ancient Guaraní people did not know of writing and their great mythic poems have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, is a branch that began to awaken in the first decades of the 20th Century with the research of German anthropologist Kurt Unkel Nimuendaju.

Following these first finds were the additional findings of Paraguayan anthropologist León Cadogan, whose compilation titled Ayvu Rapyta (The Foundations of Word), is considered the most important mythic text of the indigenous Guaraní, equal to the great sacred texts of other American peoples, such as the Popol Vuh of the Maya.

Following these pioneering collections, other anthropologist, like Pierre Clastres, Carlos Martínez Gamba and Miguel Chase Sardi, were increasing what is today already an important literary corpus published in numerous books, available to students and researchers. 

Folk Literature in Guaraní had its developmental period in the first few decades of the 20th Century and it gave way to an important group of poets that achieved widespread success via music.

The poets from this group fostered poetry that adopted classic Spanish lyrical forms, like Romance, generating their Paraguayan version in the “Composition” with which they told stories of love and patriotism, epics and tragedies.  Their texts clearly highlight the Spanish-Guaraní miscegenation, since many of them are the epitome of “Jopara,” the mixture of Gurananí and Spanish that a large part of the Paraguayan population speaks. 

Among the most renowned poets of this era, one must note Félix Fernández, Emiliano R. Fernández, Teodoro S. Mongelós, Darío Gómez Serrato and Carlos Miguel Jiménez.

Refined Literature in Guaraní emerged in the second half of the 20th Century, when a few poets—cultivators of this language—began to cut their ties with Spanish genres and began to experiment with new paths, to express at the same time, important ideas of the times.

Among the first to show a redefined poetry were Félix de Guarania, Carlos Martínez Gamba and Carlos Federico Abente.  Those that followed these poets were others like Modesto Esobar Aquino, Lino Trinidad, Ida Talavera, Miguel Angel Meza, Ramón Silva, Feliciano Acosta, Mario Rubén Alvarez and Susy Delgado.

Narrative in Guaraní was born in this same era and had its first successes in Tadeo Zarratea and Carlos Martínez Gamba, among others.

Literature in Guaraní relative to this period captures all the themes inspired by the lengthy dictatorship of Stroessner, and today is experimenting a stage of great growth, supported by the new status of Guaraní being the Official Language.